"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." John 15:9-10
God is the vine. We are the branches. We need him for nourishment. Without him, we can do no good thing, both in this world and for the next, especially as difficult times strain our natural human capabilities. God is a gardener, who prunes us, so that we can bear good fruit. If we fail to bear fruit, we are of no use to him. We must abide.
This is what we've covered so far in John 15. Today, I pick up in verse 9. Verse 9 and 10 speak specifically to how we abide. We love and we obey God's commands.
The Truth about Spiritual Warfare
Spiritual warfare is part of our normal spiritual experience. It is with us each day. However, I believe there are times and circumstances when the attacks seem to be more intense or frequent, usually when the enemy feels we're more dangerous to destruction he's trying to achieve. It is love that helps us overcome this. It is obedience that keeps us safe.
We went to see The Dark Knight Friday. Its a very good movie, but I couldn't escape the depths of evil in The Joker. He reaped destruction for the pure fun of it. He wasn't motivated by money, maybe not even power. He was not out for revenge or a cause. He simply wanted to destroy. Its been a while since I've seen such a vivid portrayal on the big screen of how I envision Satan.
I feel I'm surrounded by an extraordinary amount of spiritual warfare lately. 1 Peter 5:8-9 seems to keep coming up. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
Be Proactive in Training
In love and obedience, we have to be proactive. We have to be alert enough to see the enemy prowling and we must be self-controlled enough, in our every day experiences and behaviors, that when the attacks occur, the ability to do our part, love and obey, is our very nature.
Jesus is, as always, our example. Though God himself, he did not seek equality with the Father. He stayed close to the Father's love and obeyed him... even when it was hard, even when it didn't make sense, even when it would cost him his life.
When life is difficult, the enemy loves to entice to the wrong things for which to sustain us. Maybe its intellect. Maybe its people. Maybe its a vice or addiction. With so much going on in my life and those around me right now, I need to hold VERY close to the vine. I want to do that properly. I ask God, "How do I do that?" Same answer. "Love and obey."
Be Intentional in Removing All Barriers
Hebrews 12:1 says we have to throw off everything that hinders. God has revealed to me this week that what hinders me from closeness to him, are all the things I look to for comfort instead of him. I may do a whole blog on this, but for now, my point is... if God loves us, more than we can ask or imagine, and we know to survive, we need to remain in his love, we need to be obedient in throwing off everything that entangles, so that in those trials of life, we can stand firm against the enemy's attacks.
I spent a good portion of the week running through each "idol" I've erected in my life. I need to vanquish them. I specifically use the word "vanquish" because this is not just about bad habits; it is truly a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. God's given me his Word, our one offensive weapon (Eph 6:17), so that I know his love and have instructions on how to obey. The enemy is helpless when we insist on loving each other and obeying God's word. God will give me strength to do it, if I ask... but the first step is mine. I have to want to love and obey.
Will You Accept a Challenge?
Where might there be a wall between you and God today? Is it in understanding his love? Is it in your failure to love others? Are you living in disobedience? Are you harboring idols?
If you want to bear fruit, good fruit, if want to survive hard times, examine this, and get back to the vine. Apart from the vine, you'll only stay lost.
Father God, help me to feel your love today. Help me to love today. May I never give the enemy a foothold by holding onto pain, bitterness, selfishness, or anger in interpersonal relationships. Soften my heart and guide my way in navigating conflict.
Lord, help me to resist temptation. I don't want anything in between you and me, not a habit, a sin, a person, a desire, an idol... nothing. Help me to be alert and see the enemy's attacks so I can fight with the weapons you've given me. May I grow in knowledge of your word, so I have it ready as I need it.
I pray for all these reading it, that they may feel the same... and that you do the same, for them. Help them feel your love, love others, and obey your commands. AMEN.